Mastering the Game: A Guide to Achieving the NM Title in Chess

Are you an aspiring chess player looking to elevate your game to the next level? Have you ever wondered what it takes to earn the prestigious NM title in chess?

Discover the requirements needed to obtain the NM title, including rating, tournament, and norm requirements. Gain valuable tips on how to improve your chess skills to reach NM level and learn about the benefits of obtaining the NM title.

Prepare for the NM title exam and find out what comes next after achieving this impressive title. Dive into the world of chess and uncover the secrets to success!

Key Takeaways:

  • To obtain the NM title in chess, one must meet specific rating, tournament, and norm requirements.
  • Improving chess skills requires studying theory and strategy, analyzing games, playing in tournaments, studying grandmaster games, and working with a coach or mentor.
  • Benefits of obtaining the NM title include recognition, opportunities to play in higher level tournaments, and potential for sponsorship or coaching opportunities.
  • What is the NM Title in Chess?

    One particular type of chess title is the national master (NLM, NM, or CM) title. In the United States, the US Chess Federation (USCF) defines the title of National Master as a player with a USCF rating of over 2200. Players may still be viewed as national masters as long as they keep their national ratings over the USCF’s National Master level regardless of whether the rating was earned before or after the new lowered/dividend standard was implemented.

    Most national federations, which are members of FIDE, have their own regulations for awarding this title. The English Chess Federation (ECF) for the United Kingdom, for example, acknowledges national masters who possess a rating between 2000 to 2199. Even Nigeria has its own NMF (Nigeria Master Female) and NIM qualifications. While FIDE has a list of player’s current rating that is regularly updated, the process of obtaining or maintaining this title is up to national federations themselves.

    Chess titles can be prestigious, and those who hold the National Master title have had to significantly master the game of chess with high levels of local, national or international competition. The National Master title can sometimes be slightly devalued by the different criteria and contexts required to achieve or maintain the title, but National Master-caliber players will consistently perform at or near that level and are seen as a significant milestone for chess players as a result.

    What are the Requirements to Obtain the NM Title?

    The requirements for the National Master (NM) include earning a total of 2.200 FIDE rating points and obtaining a USCF rating of at least 2200. Statistically, it has been shown on many articles that the median FIDE rating of this title group is 2160 and the average rating of this title group is 2171. Players tend to earn the NM title by the age of 29 and they have been found to have played about 15 tournaments throughout their careers. A total of 25 games with FIDE rated players are needed to achieve this title. Statistics show that those seeking the National Master title in the U.S are players who have continued playing chess beyond high school. They have an average of 280 games played and near 60 FIDE rated games.

    Rating Requirements

    National Master (NM) in chess typically requires an USCF rating of 2200+, although some countries and organizations allow it at a level of 2000+. An NM has a good knowledge of tactics and strategies. They know the names of chess openings and have good results at weekend and open tournaments.

    To get the NM title in the US, you must get a minimum of five non-USCF or foreign FIDE rated opponents. Of these, three of the Foreign FIDE titled players must be from the same country or be rated over 2200 in the USCF rating system. The other two Foreign FIDEd titled players can be from different countries and can be rated under 2200. A player must have a prestige test to qualify. This requires you to have played a Member of the Major Open rating enough to judge your true skill. These tournaments include North America, Eastern US, Southern US, Mid-America, or Western US Major Open Tournaments.

    Foreign players can receive a National Master title if they achieve a rating of 2200 in their country’s rating system. In this case, the premiere example would be the El Salvadorian chess federation. The only other organization I discovered having different requirements thereafter was the Nigerian Chess Federation, requiring an over 2200 and an additional five untitled players ranked higher or equal to 2000.

    Tournament Requirements

    Tournament participation will help you to get the National Master (NM) title according to the rules of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The USCF requires that you

    The USCF has two (2) application forms for national titles: Local Titles Application (TLA) or Earned National Master title rated over 2200 Application. What you earn depends on how many title points you have. The first form can be used to claim the State Master (SM) or county titles, for which one does not need title points. The TLA form should be sent to the USCF address: National Titles Coordinator, PO Box 3015, Crossville, TN 38557-3015. For an accomplished and entitled player, there is a simplified method called Under 50 Method. They should use the earned National Master title for over 2200 points form titled US Chess Earned Title Report for Players with Ratings over 2200 Points.

    Norm Requirements

    Norms are criteria that national or international chess federations use to determine when a player receives an IM or GM title. The International Chess Federation uses various performance measures as norms. There are potentially two norms which are calculated differently for tournaments with different strength level participants:

    1. A Category Norm is a score typical of creating the tournament’s category that a participant aspiring to a title is expected to achieve.
    2. A Grandmaster Norm is used as a statistical measure of quality. They are representative of the median performance quality of entrants of similar level.

    Category and tournament norms are calculated by steps that measure how significant the performance was compared to the norm contained in each performance indicator. IMEA FIDE Tournaments Regulations (International Manager of Elite Athletes) explains all permitting norms. For players that are tournament directors, event organizers, or arbiters, there are easy to use norm and category calculators on the FIDE website.

    How to Improve Your Chess Skills to Reach NM Level?

    To improve your chess skills to NM level, visit a university library to study old chess handbooks and biographies of past grandmasters.

    You can also enroll in practice tournaments to sharpen your skills. The best space for practical improvement is to take classes in person with titled players. Coaches like GM Michal Krasenkow operated in Poland, the Istanbul Chess Club in Turkey is leading the charge for the next generation of players, and the Young Stars program organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club serves the same purpose in the United States. For more general practice, online platforms such as and offer a variety of tools, ratings improvements, and chess challenges for players looking to represent their respective countries in international play-levels. To reach a decent peak level in chess-playing, allow at least five to ten years of active training and competition for both children and adults – including both personal and online practice.

    Study Chess Theory and Strategy

    Studying chess theory, or in simpler words, learning what experts have theorized are optimal strategies for winning is crucial to getting the National Master (NM) title. Publications by Grandmasters like Garry Kasparov, Michael Stean, Yasser Seirawan, and Jonathan Tisdall talk about theory and their moves. A book on the history of World Chess Championships is another great start in learning the basics of chess theory.

    Analyze Your Games and Learn from Mistakes

    Analyze your games and learn from mistakes. This step is hard because it requires objectivity about the flaws in your games. Once you start seeing all your errors, it is easier to correct them.

    To learn from your errors, there are three strategies which you can adopt. Study and familiarize yourself with the patterns in your games. This will enable you to anticipate moves. A quick hack to allow you to see patterns in head is by fixing your eyes on the center of your computer screen when watching games online. This fixes your gaze on the board while watching the game and helps you see the pieces moving around in patterns. Write down your thought process in every game. The pros and cons of each move and what you would do if you went back is very useful. Be your own hardest critic. When analyzing the game, do not be lenient on yourself regarding errors. Only by pushing yourself, you can learn faster by analyzing the error in the mistake you made.

    Play in Tournaments and Gain Experience

    • Play in tournaments is the third step to take to get the National Master (NM) title in chess. Improving in serious controlled competitive events can only be done in serious controlled competitive events. Tournaments will serve as the laboratory where the improvements seen in study will be put to the test and further improvements will be noted. Monitor progress and performance enlightening expectations and realizing what needs to be done to meet objectives in the timescale desired.
    • Grigori Aleksandrov’s Intermediate Chess Course Module 21 (all the titles of a chess player) provides an amazing and realistic guide and schedule for players to get an NM chess title. He suggests that one should register for at least one over-the-board standard game tournament per month. Magnus Carlsen’s progression as compared to this schedule should be noted as he achieved NM title at an extremely slow pace. Amanda Armstrong from FIDE PlayChess comments that outside of online play and earning official monthly ratings, this suggestion is impractical for the majority of players.

    Study Games of Grandmasters

    Studying games of grandmasters include observing their strategies, techniques, and perhaps most importantly their psychological approach to the game. GMs’ games are easily accessible on a host of chess websites and are sometimes available with commentary. It’s good to watch games with commentary, as the commentator will make sure you understand the lessons concealed in moves that might at first seem unrelated to the eventual outcome.

    Work with a Coach or Mentor

    Having a coach or mentor to improve your play is the chess equivalent to going to school to improve your knowledge. A coach can help improve the skills that are most lacking. Coaching systems often start with goal-setting. A better coach can help to define goals that are realistic yet ambitious and create an action plan to reach them, review the results to see if they were met, and help the player then set new goals accordingly.

    What Are the Benefits of Obtaining the NM Title?

    The benefits of obtaining the NM title within FIDE are recognition as an international football player and a stepping stone from amateur chess player to serious professional player. (Get a Job! How to get NM title in Chess? Andrey Terekhov. 2013. Everyman Chess)

    For chess ballers who have long-term plans, getting the National Master (NM) designation from the US Chess Federation or from the English Chess Federation is a very good idea. The psychological change that is associated with this title is enormous. It is an important milestone and serves as a turning point in the player’s career. (Terekhov, Andrey)

    There are some other potential benefits which may include opens that require a certain level of achievement for entry or being eligible to play higher-rated tournaments. It can also have a positive impact on children and family as the title can be seen as evidence of the parent spending their time in a way that is culturally desirable.

    The title of National Master can add to a player’s sense of personal achievement both as a professional player and for motivation in life overall. A player who is serious about competing at higher levels and becoming acknowledged and respected beyond a local level will benefit greatly from obtaining and holding the National Master title. (Terekhov, Andrey)

    Recognition in the Chess Community

    Recognition in the chess community is a common method of obtaining the National Master NM title. Recognition can often be built by consistently getting good results in tournaments over a multi-year period. This system varies depending on geographic location and the chess federation that an organization is under. FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs) is the worldwide chess federation and its title criteria are particularly prevalent throughout the world. Societies for which FIDE criteria often apply include the US Chess Federation (US Chess), Canadian Chess Federation, and English Chess Federation(ECF).

    Averaging 50% or more of games required US Master (USM)FIDE Master (FM) titles respectively, the NM title varies from country to country with the difficulty of achieving the title increasing in countries with larger populations and competitive chess scenes.

    In the US, a player must have a rating of at least 2200, complete at least 300 official games, and play 20 games across at least 6 events in the last 24 months.

    In Canada, players must play against at least 3 Brains in Motion Masters with a rating of =2400, a 75% win rate against such players, and a ratio of annual tournaments entered is at least 4:1 if they are not able to reach the Master title by their 82nd game.

    An ECF A League (London 4ncl and Midland) ratio of annual games played to years of 4:1 is required in Britain.

    Opportunities to Play in Higher Level Tournaments

    Playing in higher-level tournaments like the US Chess Invitational Tournaments or the official chess championships in various countries, as well as regionals such as the Canadian Open or the Chicago Open for international players helps get the national master title. Entry into these events has specific requirements using ELO ratings which reflect game results, so high level tournament participation is crucial to establishing oneself as a capable candidate for the NM title.

    Potential for Sponsorship or Coaching Opportunities

    The scenario for sponsorship or modeling as a professional chess player is better for WIMs, WGMs, and “No Titles” than for FIDE Master (FM) or National Chess Master (NM). The reason for this is that there are relatively more successful women without these titles in models than among FM and NMs. Models tend to be titled females who have previously qualified for major championships or have a high profile on platforms like Instagram, Only Fans, or Twitch.

    Guram Kashia from Georgia is a non-titled player ranked #15 in the world who won the Speed Chess Championship in 2020. When he won this prize of $4,000, he was asked if he thought there would be any backlash from the chess community for taking this alpha role eminently suited to a standout female player from Eastern Europe. For his answer, see How to Become a GM in Chess?

    What Are Some Tips for Preparing for the NM Title Exam?

    There are Five Steps to Take to prepare for the NM and other United States Chess Federation (USCF) title norms:

    1. Ensure provisions are in place for being graded, with all tournaments rated by USCF, FIDE, or another country’s official athletics authority.
    2. Gain extra tournament experience and secure oversight to improve weaknesses.
    3. Regularly practice on opening knowledge, tactical skills, and endgames.
    4. Memorize chess games of previous champions, which will help other aspects of strategic visioning.
    5. Examine games from recent tournaments to refresh your brain and learn from professional players.

    Study the Exam Material Thoroughly

    Study the examination material from the FIDE chess organization for the CM, FM, and IM titles thoroughly to understand the scope needed to earn the NM title in chess. This is the most practical way to judge the level of study, practice, and experience required. The information can be found directly from the official FIDE website where the definitions of CM (Candidate Master), FM (FIDE Master), and IM (International Master) titles are outlined. While the same level of prestige might not always be associated with the NM title as the titles that come after it, it is nevertheless taken very seriously and should not be underestimated.

    Practice with Timed Exams

    To get a National Master (NM) title in chess, you need to practice the National Master level of chess. While tournaments or sporting events are the best practice ground, timed exams specifically designed to simulate tournament conditions and to help with time management can be helpful.

    By practicing within a time limit, players can apply valuable aspects of pressure to their normal training regime. Some great mobile applications for GM and IM norms (see: What is an IM title in chess?) are PlayMagnus, thischess, and Blitzboard.

    Get Plenty of Rest and Stay Focused

    International Master Miguel Quinteros was one of the first South American players to achieve proper notability on the global stage of chess. In an online post by Wisdomlight, he made the following comments about acquiring an NM title: Along with playing as much as possible, it is also recommended to keep balance. A chess player is reported to have played more than 200 official chess games in one year in the pursuit of a goal but did not make any notable improvement. It was later realized that he did not make any significant improvements not because he lacked playing, but because he lacked rest, calmness and focus during playing time.

    To become a National Master, one must have dedication, training, and playing hours; however, if one of the pieces is not in the proper proportion to the other, then the target task tricks and the target may not be able to be achieved.

    Playing is good, but playing requires calculation, calm, concentration, and focus. If you feel that these qualities are disappearing in your game and you reach the category of National Master, as well as playing, you can alternate with calmness like yoga, swimming, or walking to maintain yourself. Rest and calmness are important factors in becoming a National Master.

    What Happens After Obtaining the NM Title?

    After obtaining the National Master (NM) title in chess, what happens next depends on an individual’s goals and circumstances. Some use the NM title to continue training and recognition of their chess skills; others might use it to qualify for national championships and other tournaments, or encourage sponsorships and jobs in the field of chess. According to AMIS International Arbiters and Advisors profile on their website, the NM title is considered by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to represent the highest level of true expertise in chess.

    There are no universal requirements about how often National Masters must play official competitive chess before they lose the title, but most nations require that the titleholder maintain an active participation in competitive chess to keep it. The cost of registering for a national chess championship in order to keep the title is low, with the cost of entry fees varying by country, but typically cost between $50 to $150. Travel and accommodation costs for the chess championship will vary significantly based on the location of the event, resulting in the total cost of keeping the NM title varying significantly as well. Costs add up and continuing to compete can become even more expensive over time, especially for mature, working adults.

    Maintaining the Title

    To get the National Master in chess, a player is usually required to have shown a general strength of 2200 USCF rating or equivalent for a detectable period of time while occasionally performing at the 2300 level. Once the cabinet title is earned, it must be maintained through performance and/or playing in open tournaments. Experts to Grandmasters are more likely to accurately regress when they play against strong competition on a regular basis.

    Pursuing Higher Titles (IM, GM)

    The title of International Master (IM) is the second highest title and can be sought by winning games in FIDE tournaments in addition to establishing an International rating of at least 2200. However, in the TR=2800 system, a player will need only 25 games of their 80-point difference to stay within the same rating band. This gives them an exceptional chance of maintaining competitiveness in the quest for the GM title and minimizing loss of motivation and interest.

    The title of Grandmaster (GM) requires a peak Elo rating of 2500, three GM norms against specific time controls and tough opposition, 58 games played or 58 games worth of opposition against players of such caliber to a player’s benefits in the rating bands system, and the IM title which requires two norms against specific time controls and tough opposition 16 games played.

    The advantages of the TR=2800 are significant at this point of development and competitiveness. However, before moving to the higher-long-term achievement through the TR to the NM, IM, and GM titles, the advantages gained in earlier and lower-competitive areas will help to make their progress in the later areas simpler and easier.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is an NM title in chess?

    An NM title in chess stands for National Master, which is a title awarded to players by their country’s chess federation. It is a prestigious title and is commonly seen as a stepping stone towards becoming an International Master or Grandmaster.

    How can I get an NM title in chess?

    To get an NM title in chess, you need to have a certain rating and achieve certain results in official tournaments. Generally, you need to have a rating of at least 2200 and achieve three norms in tournaments with strong opposition.

    What are norms in chess?

    Norms are a way to measure a player’s performance and progress towards a title. They are awarded when a player achieves a certain number of points or results in a tournament, based on their rating and the strength of their opponents.

    What is the difference between an NM title and a FIDE title?

    An NM title is awarded by a player’s national chess federation, while a FIDE title is awarded by the World Chess Federation. In order to get a FIDE title, a player must already have an NM title and meet additional requirements.

    Do I need to be a certain age to get an NM title in chess?

    No, there is no age requirement to get an NM title in chess. As long as a player meets the necessary rating and norm requirements, they can achieve an NM title at any age.

    Can I get an NM title in chess by playing online?

    No, in order to get an NM title in chess, a player must participate in official tournaments and achieve the necessary ratings and norms. Online games do not count towards title requirements.

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